The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
Subscribe to the Flinchum File
View Archives

Adding Up Intangibles

Democrats were happy enough with Friday’s Jobs Report, because the economy has been adding jobs for 37 straight months.  And, the unemployment rate dropped from 7.7% to 7.6%.  What’s wrong with that?

Republicans were worried that job creation dropped two-thirds in one month.  They were angry that the labor participation rate dropped to the lowest level since May of 1979.  That means more people are NOT even looking for jobs; suggesting some people are cheating the system.

Economists were confused.  Job growth has slowed dramatically during the Springtime for the last four years.  There is no handy economic explanation for this, so they are looking at the routine seasonal adjustments made each month.  Are they skewing the seasonal data somewhat?  What changed four years ago?

However, sociologists were convinced that we are building a generational sub-class of young people.  Almost 500 thousand people dropped out of the labor force in March.  (There is always some rotation in and out of the labor force, as people drop out to care for families, go back to school, retire, etc.)  But, 500 thousand is huge.  And, half of those dropouts were under the age of 25.

Sometimes, being old and achy is not too bad.  It is probably better than being a recent college graduate with college debt but no job and facing the prospect of moving back into your parents home as a permanent adolescent, stranded in a fictional world of cyber-combat and other digital games.  All of us now know somebody like this.

There was an article in today’s newspaper that young people are no longer anxious to get their driver’s license.  It’s not as important to young people anymore, as they connect with each other via social media, instead of the “malt shop” or whatever.  There was a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that young women are finding it more difficult to find men their age, who act their age.

What is the economic cost of losing part of a generation?  What is the economic cost of immaturity?  What is the economic cost of defeatism?  Is there an intangible offset to GDP?